By Joseph Ditzler • The Bulletin

What: Lava Love

What it does: Makes and sells online a line of soaps, bath powders and masks

Pictured: Jennifer Clifton

Employees: Three

Phone: 458-206-9440

Website: www.lavalovebend.com

Elisabeth Dunham remembers the first time she cooked up a batch of soap and gravel, the first version of what later became Lava Love.

Staying at the Silver Horse Ranch north of Bend in spring 2014, Dunham, of Portland, noticed the proliferation of lava rocks strewn around the property. A Lyme disease sufferer, Dunham said she used skin products at the time that contained the mineral bentonite, a detoxifying agent found in lava rocks. Inspiration struck.

“I was, like, ‘This is lava, this is the stuff I’m bathing in,’” she said.

Dunham said she decided to make her own brand of the soap that she said significantly eased her condition. After a trip to the craft store Michaels for supplies, she went to work.

The result: “Fred Flintstone-style soaps with rocks. They were horrible,” she said. “Nobody bought them.”

That was then. She eventually produced a creamy soap with superfine particles of the active ingredients that she tested out on her group of friends in Bend, where she lived until recently.

Once she got the formula right, the soap proved very popular, she said. “They came out amazingly well. I shipped some to Jen, who shared it with a couple of other people and everybody just freaked out,” Dunham said, referring to Jennifer Clifton, of Bend, who now is her business partner. “Everybody wanted to invest in the company, but we didn’t have a company to invest in.”

Rather than take up anyone’s offer to invest, the business partners opted for crowdfunding to raise money. That way, they hold onto control of their fledgling company.

Next month, she and Cliftonplan to launch a crowdfunding campaign in order to take Lava Love to the next level. With the money they raise, Dunham and Clifton aim to buy a micronizer, a mill that grinds substances to very fine, micron-size powder, lease their own commercial space and pay an employee full time. Currently, someone grinds their minerals for them, then their employee makes the skin-care products at Clifton’s home in Bend, Dunham said.

The pair sold their first bar of soap in spring this year. Since then, Lava Love products have been picked up by Whole Foods and Amazon.com. They became available on a widespread basis in time for the holidays. “Once it was picked up by Amazon, that was our first real month in business,” Dunham said.

Lava Love soaps, bath powders and masks contain pumice, bentonite and another mineral, zeolite. Bentonite is an absorbent material with a wide range of uses; zeolite is used to purify water, among other applications. Lava Love also has shea butter to make it smooth and, for scent, essential oils from Central Oregon, including juniper, cedar, mint and lavender.

Dunham said she’s enthusiastic about the effects of a wholesome diet and the use of bentonite. For several years she made a habit of bathing in a clay made of bentonite, after which, she said, “I noticed that I felt significantly better.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7815, jditzler@bendbulletin.com

Q: How do you and Jennifer Clifton know each other?

A: Dunham: We’ve known each other maybe seven or eight years. We had mutual friends in Bend, and little kids, and we were in a moms’ group. I had moved to Bend and just decided to throw it together.

Q: Where do you see Lava Love in three to five years?

A: Dunham: Hopefully we’ll be selling worldwide. We just want to keep growing and reaching people outside of Oregon. We’re looking at … products made with a Hawaiian clay for the Hawaiian resort markets.

(Editor’s note: This story has been corrected. In the original story, the time Dunham stayed at Silver Horse Ranch was incorrect. The Bulletin regrets the error.)

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